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that part of the existing revenue system which exacts two and a half per cent on the amount of the duties paid by the owner of the merchandise when he imports it, and refunded to him when it is reëxported. The government, in other words, in refunding the duties to the importer, retains two and a half per cent. of the amount for its own use.
The amount retained was originally one per cent., as may be seen by a reference to section thirty-one of the act of 31st July, 1789, and section fifty-seven of the act of the 4th August, 1790. An addition of one quarter per cent. was made by the act of March 19, 1798, as a substitute for certain stampduties on debentures, which were repealed by the same act; and by the act of 30th May, 1800, an addition of two and a half
per cent. was made for the same purpose ; so that the amount retained was at one time three and three quarters
But these provisions were all superseded by the tariff act of 1816, which reduced the deduction to two and
cent. In 1829 all deduction was abandoned ; and from that time until 1842, the whole amount of the duties paid on the importation of foreign merchandise was refunded on its exportation. But now, by the 15th section of the act of 30th August, 1842, the amount of the deduction is fixed at two and a half per cent., except in the reëxportation of foreign refined sugars, in which case the amount retained is ten per cent. on the duties paid. The amount thus deducted by the United States in paying back the duties received on foreign merchandise in case of its reëxportation was originally, as is perceived, very small (but one per cent.); and the two second acts to which I have referred — adding two per cent, and three quarters to the amount as a substitute for stamp-duties on debentures show that the object was to indemnify the government for the inconvenience and expense to which it was subjected. But the object is directly or indirectly shown by all the early laws as well as the early reports in respect to the revenue system.
Under existing laws there is no very perceptible want of equity in this exaction, for the reason that it does not take the form of a direct payment to the government.
But under the proposed bill, and with the extension of the period allowed for keeping goods in store, the exaction of a payment equal to the same proportion of the amount of duties chargeable on them in all cases, without reference to the time during which the goods have been stored, would be illiberal and impolitic. The exaction was not designed as a source of revenue to the government, much less as a discouragement to the reëxportation of imported goods. Its purpose was what I have stated, to indemnify the government for the inconvenience and expense of administering the system of debentures. Under any other view of the subject it could only be considered as an unreasonable imposition on commerce, and especially that branch of commerce in which the country is so deeply concerned — the carrying trade.
The bill under consideration proposes to lay aside this exaction entirely, returning to the more liberal provisions of former laws; and, as a substitute for it, to require only the payment of the actual charges and expenses incurred while the goods are stored. By this provision, the interest of the government will be fully protected, and the charges paid by the importer will bear a just proportion to the time he has enjoyed the benefit of the legal provision under which his goods have been held in store. Under the proposed system, the exaction, if it were continued, would become a mere premium paid to the government for the privilege of exporting foreign merchandise for which there was no demand at home.
If the exaction were, as it now is, in the shape of a deduction by the government from duties actually paid, its true character would be less apparent than when the exaction takes the form of an actual payment by the importer on an estimated amount of duties which the government has never received. The last case would always occur under the pro
posed system, if it should be adopted, as the goods would lie in store without any payment of duties; and, in case of reëxportation, it would be necessary to assume as a basis the amount of the duties which the merchandise would have paid if it had been entered for domestic consumption, and to exact from the owner the payment of a given proportion of that amount as a charge for the privilege of reëxporting it. Such a charge is deemed an illiberal imposition on commerce; and the bill therefore proposes to allow merchandise, during the time it is permitted to remain in store, to be withdrawn for exportation, under the existing legal provisions in respect to drawbacks, upon a payment of actual expenses, including the customary charge for storage.
The third amendment is one on which only a single remark is necessary. The 12th section of the act of 1842 provides for a sale of such quantities of the goods deposited in store as shall be necessary to pay the duties, and directs the goods unsold to be restored; and if unclaimed for nine months, they are liable to be sold for storage, under section thirteen of the same act, after the expiration of that period. The proposed amendment, for obvious reasons, contemplates one sale of all the goods at the expiration of the period allowed for keeping them in store, and adopts the requirements of section thirteen in respect to the formalities of the sale, and the payment of the surplus of the proceeds into the treasury of the United States for the use of the owner. The propriety of making a final disposition by sale of all goods which have been stored for the term of two or three years, in case this period shall be fixed, is too manifest to need illustration.
Another provision, which is entirely new, requires a passing notice. Perishable goods are required to be sold forthwith, as under existing laws; but with them are classed, for the purpose of an immediate sale, gunpowder, fire-crackers, and explosive substances. The danger in large cities from the accumulation of such substances, especially when deposited in the same stores with property of great value, is of such a nature as to demand some effectual preventive. They are not imported in large quantities; and there will be no individual hardship, in the few instances in which a compulsory sale is likely to take place, at all comparable with the risk which would be incurred by the public in admitting them to the benefit of the warehouse system.
I believe I have now stated the general provisions of the proposed bill, and pointed out the amendments it makes in existing laws. They may be briefly summed up thus:
1. Merchandise may be deposited, and remain in store two or three years, instead of sixty or ninety days, before selling it for the purpose of realizing the duties.
2. Merchandise may be withdrawn from store, at any time during the two or three years, for domestic use or consumption, on the payment of charges and duties, without exacting interest on the latter from the date of the entry.
3. Merchandise may be entered for exportation at any time during the two or three years, on the payment of actual charges and expenses.
These are the leading provisions of the bill. It has been a ruling consideration in framing it to divest it of all complexity. It has been thought proper to put it in the most simple form possible, and to rely mainly for carrying into effect the new provisions it contains on regulations to be framed by the Treasury Department. These may be accommodated to unforeseen circumstances, and exigencies may thus be met which might be without a remedy for a time, if all the details of the plan were at the outset to be regulated by legal enactments. The Secretary of the Treasury is, therefore, authorized to make such regulations, not inconsistent with the laws of the United States, as may be necessary to give full effect to the provisions of the act.
As the plan is tried, and its defects or its benefits become fully disclosed, the details may be all placed upon the permanent footing of legal regulation. It is believed that the course suggested
will be deemed reconcilable with the most scrupulous considerations of prudence, when it is remembered that there is little in the plan which is absolutely new, or which may not be accomplished by a mere extension or a broader application of existing provisions of law.
I shall now detain the Senate but a moment, in stating some of the principal benefits anticipated from the changes proposed in the existing revenue system.
The first and greatest benefit to the commercial interest is the relief it will afford from the present system of exacting the payment of duties in cash, on the completion of the entry of merchandise. In one sense it may be contended, when compared with the present system, that it is an extension of a credit to the importer for the duties until he can effect a sale of his goods. Strictly speaking, it is but abstaining from an unreasonable exaction; and it is divested of all risk to the public, as the goods will never be permitted to go into the possession of the owner until the duties are paid. It will relieve him from the great hardship, which is common under the present system, of being forced to sell a portion of his goods, and sometimes in an overstocked market, for the purpose of raising the money to pay the duties. It will enable him to pay the duties as he has the opportunity of disposing of his goods for consumption, instead of being compelled to borrow money, or sell his merchandise at a loss, to raise it; and it will enable men of moderate means to enter into competition with large capitalists, who, as I have already said, monopolize to a great extent the business of importation, through their ability to command money to meet the payment of duties in cash. The proposed change is entirely consistent with the principle and the object of cash payments; and by preventing forced sales of goods to raise money for the payment of duties, it will often avoid an overstock of the domestic market with foreign merchandise, to the prejudice of the importer, by compelling him to sacrifice his property, and of the producer of domestic goods of like